What an eventful Critical Mass this was on Friday February 26, 2010. Good old fashioned hootenanny! Officer Chaplin obviously frustrated by cyclists not listening to his demands decides to take the law into his own hands (he is a cop after all), and started to herd cyclists by using the ol' "cut off and brake in front of them" approach. While frustrated he was, he didn't care to notice how he was endangering citizen's lives with his "hot pursuit" of which he called for "you on the bicycle to pull over". Obviously, this created much confusion as there were a few hundred of us on bicycles. Some listened and others didn't. One particular fellow also named Steve was the victim of Chaplin's plight.
Chaplin under the impression that bicycles are not vehicles accused Steve of obstructing traffic. Which in the second video attached to this post you can see his squad car blocking the intersection of Shady Lane and Edgewater Drive, and a yellow car subsequently having to drive on the wrong side of the road to maneuver around said squad car. While another squad car blocked the turning lane on Edgewater to Shady Lane. The officers made multiple threats that any other cyclist who stopped would also be ticketed for obstructing traffic including those who stopped on the sidewalk, or myself who was directly in front of Chaplin's squad car.
One thing you do not see in the videos is Steve being forced onto the top of Chaplin's squad car hood. And a taunting by one of the officers, to say things directly to the camera to make "it" look more dramatic. Overall, this attack on cyclists rights shows the need of accountability on the abuse of one's position of "power"; in question is Chaplin's and every other police officer's use of intimidation and fear to persecute people because of their choice of transportation. This sad moment in history for Orlando Critical Mass is only the cherry on the cake for a consistently antagonistic and endangering police force trying to control and manage this non-violent, friendly bike ride.
A thought I had after this event occurred is that there was very little solidarity in the moment. Mass listened to the officers demands to keep moving, and in my personal opinion this was a mistake. There were three officers and a few hundred of us. Sadly, when less eyes are watching police often abuse their self-given power to get away with bigger injustices. If Critical Mass is just that a critical mass, every part of that mass is critical, every rider is needed. There were only a handful of us who stayed to observe the police's actions.
Steve wound up being served two tickets for doing something that every other person that rode cold have been accused of. He has been made an example of by those that want to control mass, and for this there needs to be a continued discussion to stop further injustices from happening. This persecution will not stop here, but only if people begin to understand that Critical Mass is a statement. What that statement is up to you. But still we ride!